Herodotus famously described Egypt as a gift of the Nile, but in the ever-expanding metropolis of Cairo and our busy lives shuttling back and forth from work, we often don’t get to enjoy the Nile as much as we ought to. There’s something calming about the Nile and rivers in general. Maybe its the puzzling ability for small little waves lapping against a boat to somehow cancel out a noisy city, or maybe its the vastness and emptiness of rivers that give us a rare sense of space in our claustrophobic lives in cramped apartments. But what isn’t in in doubt is that there’s many great ways to enjoy the Nile in Cairo and we could all use some Nile-side relaxation in our lives. For World Rivers Day, which is held annually on the fourth Sunday of every September, we thought we’d have a look at some of the best ways to enjoy and chill on the Nile in Cairo.
Get Creative at Ahimsa
On the western side of the Nile opposite Maadi is Ahimsa, a calm retreat for creativity and rest. In a large green area directly on the Nile, Ahimsa puts on numerous types of activities and classes with something for everyone. In addition to the various types of yoga classes they put on led by experienced and respected teachers, you can also come along to sit next to the Nile and decorate some pottery, make pottery out of clay, learn to paint, learn to shoot arrows, and much more. Ahimsa gets simplicity just right, and is what many of us need in this city.
Sit Back and Relax on a Felukka
For friends visiting from abroad on a short trip to Cairo, a sunset felukka ride is always a go-to recommendation after a long exhaustive day at the Pyramids of Giza. However, it’s easy to forget how relaxing it can be sitting under the flapping sail of a felukka slowly bobbing along and how the gentle slosh of the water on the boat almost cancels out the cacophony of sounds bursting out of the city from the river banks. A felukka at sunset or sunrise is a simple pleasure that is unbeatable, but if you’re looking for something a bit more special, you can combine a felukka ride with some fine dining with Cafelluca.
Take a Walk along the Ahl Misr Walkway
The much-hyped Ahl Misr Walkway has finally opened the first section of this promenade throughout the centre of Cairo. With various restaurants and cafes, there’s plenty of places to sit and watch the world go by from the Ahl Misr Walkway. For a truly Nile-based day out, you can even get their directly with Nile Taxi.
Get Paddling with Cairow
For the more adventurous, there’s no better way to explore the Nile than by kayak or rowing boat. With weekly sessions and training groups or small boats to rent by the hour, you can explore the Nile from Maadi or Doqqi with Cairow. To get an idea of why rowers can’t get enough of the Nile and why you should give it a go, check out our interview with Cairow founder Emma Benany.
Stroll Along the Iconic Qasr al-Nil Bridge
At sunrise and sunset, the historic Qasr al-Nil bridge is a great place to soak up the sights and sounds of Cairo. Its iconic lions have stood guard for nearly a hundred years, and the bridge gives you a feel for downtown Cairo’s belle epoque period. Fast forward a little, and as the Nile lights up with the flashing lights of party boats at night, couples swarm to the bridge for a romantic evening, talking away the night and watching the felukkas plod along the Nile.
Cross the Nile on a Public Ferry
With several small routes linking the the eastern and western side of the river, taking a public ferry in Cairo with the gentle Nile breeze in your face is a welcome change from getting stuck in traffic. Not only are ferries in Cairo an enjoyable and relaxing ride in and off themselves, they’re also a great excuse to explore the other side of the river you may not know that well. There’s even a ferry that runs on weekends that goes all the way to el Qanater Dam and its lush gardens, which sit approximately 25 kilometres north of the the centre of Cairo.
Enjoy the Nile in Luxury at Crimson
Now that Zamalek’s Leftbank is sadly no longer, nearby Crimson is a worthy, although pricey, alternative. Overlooking the Nile and serving fantastic food and drinks throughout the day, Crimson is a great place to enjoy a great meal and watch over the city. If this isn’t quite your speed and you’re looking to party, at night, Crimson turns into a lively bar with great music.
Go Bird Watching with Dayma
Early in the morning before the roar of traffic picks up and scares away the wildlife, the Nile is alive with a surprisingly large array of colourful birds fluttering in the sky and diving headfirst into the water to hunt for food. Dayma is a local NGO focussed on environmental protection that among its diverse set of programs and initiatives, organises bird watching trips on the Nile in Cairo. With a boat full of eager birdwatchers and a box of binoculars, Dayma guides you through the types of birds and where to spot them on the river bank. If you’re looking to do something a little different, especially if you have kids, bird watching with Dayma is a great way to see a side of Cairo you don’t usually see.
Get a Birds Eye View (and a drink) at Escobar
After years of being known as Dos Canas and then Stash, a rooftop bar in Garden City with unbeatable views of the Nile has again been taken under new ownership. Although now known as Esco-Bar, the place still has its incredible vistas of the city that people would travel from all over the city for. If you arrive just before sunset, you get to see the city in all its glory followed by the city coming alive at night.
Jump on a Party Boat
Although not as calming as a Felukka, the brightly lit boats that dot the Nile at night and blast out music are a great way to let off a little bit of steam and enjoy the Nile. With magicians often jumping between boats to perform shows and dancers doing spectacular feats of acrobatics, it’s certainly a night to remember. Sometimes, the whole boat will erupt in dancing after the initial shyness in front of strangers fades and the flashing lights and blasting music steadily prove irresistible.
Chill by the Nile at the Nilometer and Manasterly Palace
At the southern-most point of Rhoda Island, is a small getaway from the hustle of the city. On the grounds of the once grand Monastery Palace sits the Nilometer and Umm Kalthoum Museum. While these three places all deserve to be visited regardless, it’s also a great place to enjoy the Nile from. Whether you want to catch up with an old friend, have a small picnic, or read a book, this little green corner of Cairo is a perfect place to get away from the city.
WE SAID THIS: Don’t Miss… Rowing On The Nile With Cairow Founder Emma Benany